China's inflation is unlikely to reach the heady levels seen in 2006-2008 because the economy is showing no signs of overheating, prominent economist Fan Gang said in comments published on Sunday.

Although food prices have been rising, the gains have not been that large compared to the 2006-2008 period, Fan, a former adviser to the People's Bank of China, told a forum in Shanghai, according to the People's Daily.

In 2006-2007, the domestic economy was overheating, but the current economic growth is more stable, said Fan, who heads the National Economic Research Institute, a Beijing think tank.

China's economic growth in 2011 is expected to stay strong, driven by a recovery in business investment, higher exports and property investments, he added.

Beijing had said that inflation this year will average no more than 3 percent, but that target is likely to be surpassed after consumer prices rose 4.4 percent in the year to October, the fastest pace in 25 months.

In the first 10 months, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 3.0 percent higher than in the same period of 2009.

China is now considering raising its inflation target for 2011 even as it is campaigning to reassure consumers that price pressures will remain in check.

Alert to the social and political unrest that inflation has periodically stoked, the ruling Communist Party has taken steps to keep a lid on prices and manage inflation expectations.

These include ordering local governments to prevent speculative funds from driving up prices of a wide range of products and increasing supplies of food and energy -- the main drivers of inflation.

In 2007, the economy expanded by 11.4 percent, the quickest pace in 13 years, while annual consumer inflation jumped to an 11-year high of 4.8 percent, driven mainly by food price increases, especially pork.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Editing by Ron Popeski)